The beautifully enigmatic country of Spain has been the muse to many artists. As such Spain has produced some of the world´s most talented writers throughout the generations. Not that a reason is needed to explore the varied landscapes of Spain but following the footsteps of some of its greatest writers is certainly a worthy one.
Here are four of Spain’s most famous writers and locations off the beaten track which inspired some of the most important works that are well-worth a visit – be you a literary fan or not.
Miguel De Cervantes – Consuegra Windmills
There can be no greater place to start than with the greatest Spanish author of all time, Cervantes. This 16th century Spanish novelist is sometimes forgotten on the international stage amongst the pantheon of great writers like Shakespeare and Tolstoy, but never in Spain. Miguel de Cervantes was born in 1547, in Alcala de Henares. The humble beginnings of his life were spent in relative poverty before he was forced to move to Rome, joined the Spanish navy infantry, was captured by pirates and ransomed back to Madrid after five years of captivity. It was a ransom well paid because Cervantes went on to become one of the most exceptional writers of all time
Cervantes’ works have endured the test of time with their whimsical wit, moral discovery and compelling characters at their core. His classic work “Don Quixote ” is a timeless masterpiece that greatly shaped literature of today. Like Shakespeare, he even invented words now in common use – “Quixote ” meaning and unrealistic idealist. Don Quixote tells the tale of a noble who loses his mind – or pretends to – and adventures off to become a knight with his sidekick, a farmer turned squire called Sanchi Panza – in a rather homoerotic relationship we might add. The site and inspiration for one of its most iconic scenes can be visited in the quaint town of Consuegra, on top of the Cerro Calderico mountains in Castilla-La Mancha. As the story goes, Don Quixote mistook the windmills found there for giants and charged them. The line of ten tower mills is impressive and overlooks an amazing view of the plains below with a medieval castle looming behind them.
Federico Garcia Lorca – Garcia Lorca Memorial Park, Granada
Garcia is one of Spain’s most celebrated poets and playwrights and has quite the eventful back story. Born in the beautiful mountain village in Granada in 1898, he grew up to become a talented writer and first gained public acclaim for his book of poems about Andalucía – telling tales about flamenco, gypsies and the nitty gritty of rural life. He grew up to become a founding member of Spain’s Generation of 27 – an avant-garde group of poets who introduced symbolism, futurism, and surrealism into Spanish literature.
Garcia Lorca was also gay and is said to have made advances on Salvador Dali himself – who did however, rebuff him. His life was tragically cut short when he was killed by fascist national forces at the young age of 38 – largely assumed to be because of his sexuality. His body has to this day never been recovered. Granada, the region of his birth, is a beautiful collection of towns and cities – not to mention home to the Alhambra palace – nestled within the mountains of Andalucía. García Lorca Memorial Park is a hidden gem found within the town of Alfacar there. The lush park is full of fountains, winding paths and olive trees and offers a fantastic view over the pine forests below. Furthermore, it is believed to be the spot where the writer himself was executed.
Carmen Conde – Cartagena
Carmen Conde is a legend who deserves more international fame. She is most well-known for being a prolific poet but has many claims to fame, such as for being the first women to become an academic numerary at the Real Academia Espanola and for having founded – with her husband – the first popular university of Cartagena. Born in Cartagena in 1907 she grew up to be a talented writer, writing under the pen name, Florentina del Mar. Despite being married to the controversial fellow poet Antonio Oliver Belmas – controversial due to his connections to Falangists of the Franco regime – she also had a female lover, the writer Amanda Junquera Butler. This lover was said to be the source of a lot of her poetry and Conde became one of the first queer authors to publish works that focused on lesbian relationships and feminism in Spain. After the civil war she moved to Madrid, which was yet to beccome the gay-friendly mecca it is today but still where she found a haven for herself, her husband and lover. There she lived until her death in 1996.
While her life story may be inspiring, it was her work which has impacted countless lives and she is still renowned as being a lesbian icon. Her birth town of Cartagena – found in the southern Spain region of Murcia – is a tourist site due to its location of the coast near many beaches and resorts, but those in the know can also visit the university Conde founded and see the life-sized statue honoring her. The statue encapsulated her sitting on a bench, book on lap. on El Carmen Street – also named after this inspirational woman.
Carlos Ruiz Zafon – Puigcerdà
Jumping ahead to more recent history, Carlos Ruiz Zafon is perhaps the most well-celebrated Spanish writer of the last 20th and 21sr century. Born in Barcelona: he later moved to Los Angeles, where he worked as a screenwriter and started writing novels drawing inspiration from 18th century classics, crime fiction and noir. The world-renowned author of international best-sellers such as The Shadow of the Wind and The Angel’s Game has captivated generations of readers with his thought-provoking stories filled with both adventure and symbolism. He recently passed away, in 2020, from colorectal cancer leaving behind works that are considered to be some of the most defining pieces of Spanish literature of recent years.
Puigcerdà is the location of the principal scenes of The Angel’s Game and is a charming roman town found in northern Catalonia. It is unique in that during the Spanish Civil War it had a democratically elected anarchist council. The town provides a guided tour through the locations of The Angel’s Game and takes in the charismatic architecture found there, making it a worthy addition to any adventure of exploration through the hidden gems – and muses – of Spain.